Some rooms seem to have loud resonant echoes that reverberate through space and sound terrible. This can magnify the volume of everything that occurs within the room, becoming maddening for those who must occupy it. While dealing with this same problem myself, I came across 15 ways to how to reduce echo in a room cheaply.
Excessive echo can make a room much less pleasant. It can multiply the amount of noise caused by already noisy kitchen appliances. Too much echo and reverberation can make phone conversations difficult to hear on both sides. This applies to video chats, recordings, even just normal conversation. In a bathroom, echoes can make your ventilation fan seem like a jet engine.
This article will compile 15 effective and cheap methods into one source to help you assemble a plan of attack against these rouge sound waves. All of these techniques can be done on a low budget without breaking the bank. Most of them involve things you probably have on hand already and won’t require spending a penny. If you implement a few of these methods, you’re certain to reduce the echoes in your room drastically.
Why Does Your Room Echo?
Before we dive into ways to solve the echo in your room, let’s discuss why your room echoes in the first place. Anytime sound is created, that sound has energy that propels it in the form of a sound wave. This sound wave will continue to spread out until the energy is absorbed or dissipates.
When the sound wave hits a hard surface, it will reflect off that surface, bouncing off in other directions. Since a sound wave is already spreading out in every direction from its point of origin, it is likely bouncing off of several different hard surfaces in different parts of the room in very close succession. When the sound of each of these reflections makes it back to your ear, you hear it in the form of an echo.
Any hard surface will reflect a sound wave, but soft surfaces can instead absorb the sound wave and nullify its energy. When this happens, the sound wave is not reflected; therefore, no echo is created.
Many things can make the echoes in a room worse. Empty rooms will generate a lot of echoes because there’s nothing to absorb or nullify the sound waves, so they bounce freely from wall to wall. Larger rooms create more resonance, which can enhance the effect even further.
Any hard surface will also increase the echoes, such as glass in mirrors or windows. Hard floors like tile and wood will also make a room have far more echo than a room that’s carpeted. Even hard furniture like dressers and desks can add to the echo you’re experiencing in any given room.
Although it’s a common problem that can be a real nuisance, it’s not that difficult to remedy or at least mitigate the excessive echo of any room. In the next section, we’re going to go over 15 cheap ways you can reduce the echo you’re experiencing right now.
How to Reduce Echo in a Room Cheaply
1. Use Acoustic Foam
Acoustic foam is explicitly built to reduce the echoes and reverberations in music production studios and vocal recording booths. Because of this, it’s very effective at cost-effectively minimizing these echoes. While name brands such as Auralex may be on the high end, other options are widely available that are much more economically priced and function nearly as well.
Acoustic foam is available in several different colors and patterns. Pyramids, wedges, flat pieces, and egg-crate waves are all available. They all serve the same function, though the different shapes are intended to scatter sound waves in different directions.
Beyond pattern and color, be careful of what thickness you choose to go with. Thinner materials will block only higher frequencies leaving the lower frequencies to resonate more. I’d suggest opting for at least 2” thick pieces, though in this case, I believe thicker is better. Thicker pieces will cost more, of course, so you’ll have to determine if it’s worth it for you.
These acoustic foam panels can easily be hung by several methods. They can be hung with great effect on both walls and ceilings. Even better, they can be removed and reused elsewhere.No products found.One method of installation involves a spray adhesive being applied to the wall and the foam panel. This is a more permanent solution, though the panels will still be reusable. However, a residue from the glue and some of the foam will be left on the wall requiring difficult removal, so only use this method if you intend to keep them in one place long term.
Alternatively, you can use thumbtacks or nails to mount them in a semi-permanent fashion. This will only leave tiny holes that can easily be covered with a little bit of caulk. You can even use double-sided tape to mount these foam tiles. Be sure to get a kind that sticks to fabric though or you’re more likely to find frustration.
2. Fill the Room with Furniture
Like we discussed in the first section of this article, large soft items can absorb and nullify the energy that’s propelling a sound wave. One easy and effective way of adding lots of large and soft items to your room is by adding large furniture.
Couches are one of the best bets and they’re surprisingly effective at reducing the echo in an empty room. You can add more than one couch, or even a loveseat or large chair will do the same thing on a smaller scale. Of course, these are all dual purpose since they’ll also give you ample seating!
If you already have large furniture, you can move it into the room you feel needs it most. Naturally, this is most applicable in rooms such as the living room or a family room and won’t be as useful as a suggestion for a kitchen.
3. Cover Windows with Curtains
Hard surfaces reflect sound waves and add to the echo in your room. While drywall is already hard enough to create plenty of echoes on its own, the glass in your windows is even worse.
By covering up the windows with sound absorbing curtains, we can easily and aesthetically reduce the amount of echo any room is experiencing.
If you want to take this a step further, you can use soundproofing curtains instead of regular shades or fabric curtains. Soundproofing curtains are made from a special material that can absorb sound. This will be more effective at reducing echoes inside your room than a regular curtain would be.
Moreover, these curtains also block noise from outside and stop it from breaking the peace inside your home.
4. Use Rugs on the Floor
As we discussed in an earlier section, hardwood floors can be a significant source of echo in any room. Carpeted rooms experience far less echo than rooms with hard flooring. Of course, carpeting a room would be far from cheap and easy to implement, but rugs fit both of those qualifications.
By simply adding smooth fur fluffy rug to cover as much of the hard flooring as possible, you’ll drastically reduce the echo in a room. This one thing can make an immediately noticeable difference. For improved effect, try to find the thickest rug you possibly can, as a thicker rug will be more absorptive to the sound wave.
One thing rugs will likely not reduce are low-frequency echoes. Since rugs aren’t going to be very thick, they’re only going to reduce the higher-frequency echoes from most speech and appliance noises.
5. Art and Tapestries
If you want to reduce echo, then any and everything you can use to cover over the hard walls will help reduce how much of the sound wave that area reflects. This leads to a reduction in the overall echo. By multiplying this effect across many areas of a room, you can dry the room out and make it sound much better.
Tapestries and paintings on canvas can both do their part to curtail the echo while also adding to the room’s decor. Sound dampening blankets work exceptionally well for reducing both echo and sound transmission.
For the ceiling, acoustic baffles hung vertically or fabric wrapped ceiling banners can both be very effective ways of reducing the ceiling’s contribution to the echo in a room. Many people forget about the ceiling, but its contribution to the reverberation and echo is often just as great as any of the walls’.
Anything soft on your walls will help reduce the echo. This can be as simple as just plain fabric up to soundproof layered curtains. For more information on these, read my article on the sound absorbing fabrics for noise reduction.
6. Use Fabric Blinds
Many homes and apartments come standard with hard blinds, often wood or metal. While these may be cheap and not too awful to look at, they also add to the amount of echo a room produces. Cloth blinds will instead help to absorb the sound to some degree, which will reduce the overall level of echo present.
If you have metal or wood blinds now, I’d recommend switching to a fabric blind. Alternatively, noise-reduction curtains would be about the same cost but would do a lot more to help reduce the echo in your home. I’d suggest going with some soundproofing or noise-reduction curtains on your window to replace any hard blinds you currently have.
7. Add Plants Around the Room
If you’re looking for a more natural approach to reducing echo, consider adding potted plants to your home. Any leafy greens will do and should help minimize echo in any space. Larger plants will, of course, be more effective than small ones.
You can improve the effect by simply adding sound absorbing plants to the room. The more the merrier in this case since adding more will continue reducing echo in the room. For reducing lower frequency echoes, try moving the largest plants into the corners of the room where the low frequencies tend to accumulate.
8. Use Room Divider Curtains
Hanging room divider curtains are one of the most versatile ways of controlling the echo in any room. There are many ways you can mount these curtains to suit practically any situation. Moreover, they have excellent sound-deadening properties and come in many aesthetically pleasing colors, patterns, and designs.
Room divider curtains can be used to cover a small area, an entire room, or anything in between. They can effectively block sound transmission through windows as well as absorbing the echoes the window usually creates. They can also be hung against a wall to absorb reflections effectively.
Of course, you can always use them to divide a room, as the name implies. This allows you to make space smaller acoustically by effectively acting as back walls to stop the sound from traveling further or echoing. This is great for home theaters, shared rooms, or large family rooms where one person may want a privacy divider.
With so many different ways you can use them, room divider curtains are one of my favorite methods of reducing echo in a room. I’ve used them for reducing sound coming in and out of my home with great effect as well. Plus, as a bonus, they also block light, which is great for helping you sleep in past sunrise, especially if you generally wake with sunlight like me.
9. Add Full Bookshelves to the Room
Bookcases full of books can offer a very thick sound absorber that can help reduce echoes from every frequency. Low-frequency echoes are generally much harder to do anything about, but full bookshelves are one of the few effective ways of dealing with them.
If you already have bookshelves full of books, then you’re in luck and all you need to do is move them to the room with the worst echo. No bookcase? This may be a bit less cheap for you to implement. Bookcases can be found quite affordable at Amazon, or they can be found very affordably used on sites such as craigslist.
Books can again be bought secondhand very inexpensively from places such as Goodwill, used book stores, yard sales, or even Amazon. Of course, you may be lucky enough to have a full collection of books on hand, in which case you can do this right away and fix your echo problem today.
10. Install Sound Control Room Divider
For a simple, all in one solution, look no further than a sound control room divider such as the portable divider from Versare. This is a large, multi-panel acoustic room divider that can be easily placed anywhere to instantly curtail the echoes in a room and help make the room sound much better.
Installation requires no tools and is non-permanent. It won’t cause any damage and can be very easily moved to a new location with very little effort. If you prefer a more permanent solution, mounting options do exist to fix your sound control room divider into one position for a more long-term reduction of echoes.
At 6.5’ high, this divider should have no problems fitting in almost any space. It’s also 8’ wide, so there’s a lot of surfaces there to absorb sound with. The nice fabric that covers the Versifold is visually attractive and comes in several color variations to fit with your existing decor.
While one of these room dividers can do a lot to reduce echo only by adding just one against one of the hard surfaces in your room, adding more of them will increase the effect. By placing one against two, or even all four walls of a room, you can eliminate a lot of the echoes you’re currently experiencing with very little work.
11. Mount Acoustic Panels to Wall or Ceiling
Acoustic panels are often made of fiberglass or Rockwool. They can be much thicker than studio foam and are usually 3”-4” thick, though thinner acoustic panels can still be found. These can be purchased in many different sizes to fit different areas, but you’ll probably need several to dampen an entire room.
Hanging these panels on some of the walls of your room would be the first step to reducing the echo. However, don’t forget about how echo is also bouncing off the ceiling! Acoustic panels can be a great solution that can be easily mounted and installed directly to the ceiling to make a big difference in the acoustics of your space without taking up any wall space. This may be especially handy if you aren’t particularly fond of the look of acoustic panels.
While purchasing enough acoustic panels to absorb the echo in a large room may be a costly task, there is a cheaper alternative. You could choose to save quite a bit of money by building the acoustic panels yourself. If you have just a bit of DIY experience, it shouldn’t be too difficult.
I have built them before myself, and it was a very easy job that didn’t take up too much time. Rather than waste the money purchasing pre-made panels, this is the route I would personally suggest. For more information on how to save some money by making the acoustic panels yourself, check out my article on DIY acoustic panels for sound absorption.
12. Use Acoustic Bass Traps
As we discussed in the first section of this article, lower-frequency sounds have more energy than their high-frequency counterparts. This means it takes a lot more absorptive material to negate the energy and stop the resonance and echo of the more bassy sounds. Because of this, adding some acoustic treatments to a room can make the echo worse by only absorbing the higher frequencies and allowing the lower ones to multiply and get even louder.
To help reduce the boomy bass frequencies, you’re going to need something much thicker that can absorb and nullify a lot of energy in a sound wave. Bass traps are built just for this purpose, so they tend to be a minimum of 6” thick, though 12” is preferred.
Low-frequency sound waves tend to build up in the corners of a room, so this is where we’ll get the most effective dampening of those bass sounds. For the best acoustics and they dryest sounding room overall, bass traps would need to be added in all four corners of the room where the low-frequencies gather.
Of course, you have to be careful not to repeat the same problem in reverse. If you add bass traps in all four corners of the room, but you don’t use any methods of curtailing the higher-frequency sound waves that are bouncing off the walls and ceilings, then you’re going to increase the resonance of those higher frequencies, even while reducing the lower frequency echoes.
I’d suggest a balanced method involving the use of acoustic bass traps, as well as one or more of the other techniques of echo elimination we’ve discussed. This will allow you to reduce echoes in all frequencies, delivering a clean and quiet home that was your goal when you first started reading this article.
Going out and purchasing bass traps to fill all four corners of a room is not going to be very cost-effective. Instead, you can save yourself a heap of cash by going the DIY route once again. If you’d like to see some ways of building these traps for yourself, check out my article on ideas and plans on how to build DIY bass traps.
13. DIY Sound Diffusers
Sound diffusers deal with the issue of echo in a different way than sound panels and other absorptive methods of sound control. Instead of absorbing and dissipating the energy of a sound wave, diffusers will scatter that wave in many different directions all at once, effectively splitting a single large sound wave into many smaller ones with less energy. This makes it, so no particular echo is loud enough to fully reach your ears.
While too much sound absorption can kill the harmonics in a room, diffusion can help to make a room sound alive and natural while still helping to reduce the amount of echo and reverb you directly experience.
While diffusers can be very effective, purchasing one can be a major investment. These are high-end pieces of equipment that are generally reserved for music production studios. That said, you can easily make one at home with a few tools and a little know-how. If you’d like to learn more, read Ideas and Free Plans for DIY Sound Diffuser Panel.
Other Effective Solutions
14. Cork Acoustic Flooring, Wall and Ceiling Tiles
Cork is sustainable, recyclable, and most importantly, cost-effective. Granted, covering an entire floor, wall, or ceiling with it is still going to be a pretty sizable investment, which is why this method is under other practical solutions. Cork has excellent acoustic properties and can do a lot to help reduce echo in any living area.
This material is used for an acoustic underlayment that goes beneath hard flooring to create more dampening and better acoustics. Alternatively, cork can even be used to make floor tiles, rolled flooring sheets, and wood plank flooring. It will help reduce vibration, echo, and sound transmission as well, resulting in a much better audio environment.
Cork is also used to make mountable wall tiles and panels. These come in different thicknesses, styles, textures, and even multiple colors to match the decor in your home. They’re easy to hang, affordable, and they can do a lot to improve the acoustics of any room.
As ceiling tiles, cork can drastically reduce the echoes and reverberations that are bouncing off the ceiling. This is one of my favorite methods of curtailing those reflections. These can be easily glued to a hard ceiling with little effort. Alternatively, they can also be used as drop-in tiles in a ceiling grid as they are often used in offices.
If you’d like to learn more about cork’s soundproofing properties, read about using cork for soundproofing.
15. Install Mass Loaded Vinyl
Out of all the methods we’ve discussed, installing mass loaded vinyl is probably the most expensive, but it’s also likely the most effective. MLV is a flexible membrane that can be added to your walls that drastically blocks and absorbs sound waves. It will cover your existing drywall all the way around, then a new layer of drywall will be installed on top of the MLV.
If you’re very handy and have a lot of experience with home improvement, you may be able to take this job on with a helper. MLV is very dense, heavy, and limp, so it’s not easy to work with. You’ll also need to be sure you completely cover every square inch and use acoustic caulk along seams and cracks.
This is a very effective method of eliminating echoes, but it’s so time and labor-intensive that it’s probably not the choice for most people. I’ve included it last for this reason, but I wanted you to know about it in case you want a more effective, more expensive method.
We’ve covered a lot of information in this article, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Pick any method that seems like you could quickly implement it with what you have now and start trying it out! Each of these techniques will make a marked improvement in the acoustics of your room. By combining several of these methods, you can drastically reduce the echoes in your living space and make it considerably more comfortable.
If you found this information useful, please feel free to share it so it can reach others who may also find utility from it. Comments and questions can be left below in the comment box, where I will respond as quickly as I can.
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